stone island, radio joke

Taken from a 1971 letter

I was seldom involved in practical jokes-mostly because I was never associated in a story unit with the jokers of the place-Roy Williams, to name one. However, one joke was staged in the duck unit that may be worth relating. It was a complicated radio gag aimed at Harry Reeves, who was a supervisor of several story units at the time. World War II was on, and everybody under thirty-five was sweating out his draft call. Family men were still being exempted, and Harry was sitting pretty for that reason. In spite of the tension everybody was going around doing imitations of Roosevelt speeches, etc. Nick George became quite proficient at expounding: "Ah hate wahuh, Eleanauh hates wahuh."

One day we heard that some men in a layout unit had a small radio sender that could broadcast on a standard wave length for half a mile. Someone came up with the idea of doing a fake Roosevelt speech and broadcasting it to our room's radio. Nick and I made a record at my home on my Philco recording phonograph, and with the connivance of the layout men the record was put on the air at a moment when we knew Harry Reeves would be in the room. So when the moment came, Jack Hannah casually turned up the radio volume and said word had just come over that F.D.R. was about to make an emergency speech. Nick's voice came on in perfect Roosevelt pomposity intoning: "Fellow Americans, mah friends. Ah hate wahuh! Eleanauh hates wahuh!" then launched into a speech about the need to expand the draft to include even family men. Harry was suspicious, to say the least. He said, "That's not F.D.R.; that's Nick." Then Nick walked into the room and stood listening beside Harry. At this point the gag was working beautifully. Harry could feel his draft status slipping away. But Nick and I had overdone the recording. When "F.D.R." called on Eleanor to say something profound to the worried people my voice came outdoing my stock Eleanor bit: "How now, brown cow?"

Harry almost tore the place apart looking for the way the put on was put on. When he found it he grabbed the sending unit and record player and was off to the upper floors to pull the gag on anybody he could find sitting still. We almost had to hogtie him to save America's dignity. It was rapidly dawning on us that we jokers could get shot for defamation if any unapprised ears had caught the broadcast.


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